The approval of the Prawer-Begin Plan on Monday, May 6th, 2013 by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation marks a drastic step towards institutionalizing the State’s discriminatory and racist policies regarding the Negev-Naqab. If implemented, this will result in the Negev becoming an area “as clean as possible of Bedouin,” depriving the Arab Bedouin of their lands and their traditional agriculture. The proposed Plan will result in the disintegration of their communal life and their forced concentration to under-resourced, urban townships. This will profoundly affect their capacity for self-development and is contrary to the traditional, agricultural character of a significant portion of Bedouin society. The law signifies the continued Judaisation of the area, isolating the Arab-Bedouin and effectively depriving them of their civil rights. It will prevent the development of the Negev for all its residents, including its Jewish residents.
The Committee’s decision, in fact, gives the go ahead for the forced evacuation of thousands of citizens and the destruction of many villages. This stands in contradiction to the recommendation of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2011), which called upon Israel to desist with the forced evacuation of Bedouin inhabitants and to cease the demolitions of their homes in the unrecognized villages. It is also contrary to the recommendation of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2012), which called on the State of Israel to shelve the Prawer Plan for the Regulation of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev (2011), which is the basis of the law just passed by the Ministerial Committee.
Furthermore, the Ministerial Committee made a number of conditions that could make this already problematic Plan even more devastating for the Bedouin population. These are the following:
• The Plan will incorporate a map, specifying which settlements will be added to the existing villages and the locations of areas of land compensation.
• The timeline for implementation will be reduced from five to three years.
• A Ministerial Committee will be appointed with the responsibility of monitoring the program and will receive periodic reports on its implementation.
• An additional 250 police will be appended to the existing forces that are already tasked with implementing the plan.
These terms were dictated by extreme Right-wing members of the Committee and the Government. They demonstrate the political interests underlying the legislative process and expose the intent to supervise, centralize and direct this Plan. By decreasing the timeline for expelling tens of thousands of citizens from their lands, limiting the Bedouins’ property rights and displaying a map designed to ensure that “the Bedouin will not be given too much land” while also increasing the police force responsible for the expulsion, the Committee has created a program that will maximize Jewish ownership of Negev lands without any consideration of the Bedouin community’s needs, civil rights and connection to the land.
The Negev Coexistence Forum believes that this law formalizes a process that is destructive to the future of the Negev. We are dismayed that the State has designated such extensive resources towards police enforcement of a violent and oppressive strategy, while these resources could be directed to recognizing existing villages, developing their infrastructure, improving the welfare of the population and furthering the long-term interests of all residents of the Negev—Jews and Arabs.
The implementation of the Plan, which was not shared with the Bedouin and is fiercely opposed by a majority of the community, is absolutely unjust. It reflects an abuse of Government power that serves only Jewish citizens. In fact, it damages the long-term interests of the public at large. The State should use it power wisely, otherwise it sabotages the authority granted to it by the public. Policy-makers are aware that giving the Jewish residents more rights and resources at the expense of the Arab population constitutes racial and ethnic discrimination, but they still continue to privilege the Jewish population at the expense of Israel’s Arab citizens. This policy perpetuates the continued oppression and the weakening of Bedouin Arabs, exacerbates alienation and hatred among populations in the Negev, and gravely undermines civil society.
This is a patently, unjust law and every effort must be made to prevent its implementation. There is still time to stop the law before it is finally ratified by the Knesset, and we will do all we can to convince our leaders of its negative consequences. Preventing this bill would further the long-term interests of all residents of the Negev—both Jewish and Arab.
We call on members of Arab and Jewish communities alike to join forces with us in this crucial struggle; it concerns us all.